SPORTS w/The Jock 4/14/11

by Tom Weppel
NBA PLAYOFFS
After a rollicking regular season, we now begin the ‘second’ season in the NBA, also known as the Playoffs!
Each year, it always seems as if the playoffs are one long, drawn-out process within themselves…much longer than I think a lot of fans would prefer. Perhaps it has a little bit to do with every round having seven-game series, and a lot of them go that distance.
As for favorites, there are a couple of teams in each Conference that might have a slight edge. In the Eastern Conference, we see the upstart Chicago Bulls at the top. They have had a great season, albeit doing so without the fanfare other teams might have, simply because the Miami Heat took up most of the spotlight. Yet the Bulls came through producing the best record in the NBA. First-year Head Coach Tom Thibodeaux has done a good job turning the team into a nice collection of interchangeable parts. The play of Derek Rose and Carlos Boozer has been phenomenal. It should be quite interesting to see what the Bulls can accomplish in the postseason.
Then you have the powerhouse Heat, who have played under pressure, it seems, throughout the entire season. But they have survived, as LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade kept it together. Now that they’re in the playoffs, it should be even that much more of a challenge for them. My feeling, though, is that they can and will flourish.
That leaves the veteran Celtics and the fledgling Magic. Boston has been down this road. They are well-versed in knowing what they’ll be dealing with. Orlando has Dwight Howard as a very solid force, along with a pretty talented lineup. Both teams have the potential to go all the way, it seems. We’ll see.
In the West, of course the Lakers are your favorites, even thought the San Antonio Spurs had the better record. Los Angeles knows exactly what they’re dealing with here in the postseason. From Kobe and Phil Jackson on down, they should last quite a while, if not all the way to the THE Finals.
But the Spurs could be in the way. Even though they stumbled the last ten games of the season, they still have shown their prowess and ability to produce offensively and defend, as they should. They also have veteran leadership, including Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.
Oklahoma City and Dallas both have played well throughout the season and could be tough to deal with in these playoffs. And even the Denver Nuggets have emerged as a solid contender, playing solid ball after the Carmelo Anthony trade.
So overall, these playoffs should be quite entertaining. As opposed to past seasons, I don’t feel there is a clear-cut, definitive favorite. We’ll see who emerges from the next couple of months of the postseason…

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Baseball will be finishing up their second week of play this weekend. The standings show us that the Colorado Rockies are doing pretty good overall, while the Red Sox are struggling mightily. For all intents, this is NOT what baseball fans were looking for or wanting to have happen!
For Colorado, they are off to a nice start, both on the road, and at home. They have benefitted from the bat of Troy Tulowitzki, and the closing pitching of Huston Street. They cruise along, heading in to their weekend series at home against the Cubs.
Conversely, the Bostons simply aren’t firing on all cylinders at all times, and Sox fans have been saddened, wondering what is going on.
Their hitting has been off, with both Mark Crawford and Kevin Youkilis both hitting below .200. Their pitching rotation hasn’t been performing the best either, giving up runs at the wrong times.
Hopefully they can come around sooner or later. This weekend they host Toronto.

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